Canadian Alexandra van Vianen calls it destiny. She went to China in June 2010 as an exchange student, never realizing she would leave her heart in Qingdao — and end up becoming a wedding planner together with her husband, Fei.
Today, they run H-Flower together in Qingdao, and their story is as beautiful as the designs they create for weddings and more. Even better, Alexandra shares her how-we-met-and-married tale in two languages — and has graciously provided a video starring the two of them (with subtitles in English and Chinese). In addition to their company website, you can also follow Alex and Fei’s company on Weibo.
Our hometowns share an ocean, but are on different continents. We both celebrate a new year, but at a different time. We both have parents, but only one of us has siblings.
I can tell the story of how Fei and I met in two languages. This type of meeting is called 缘分 (yuanfen) which depicts that by fate or destiny two people come together.
Like most foreigners here I began my journey as an exchange student in June 2010. At the same time Fei agreed to help his friend by teaching a class on Business in China. Fei studied and lived in Dublin, Ireland for nine years. When we met it was not in Canada, it was not in Ireland, nor was it in Fei’s hometown Qingdao (青岛). We met in a small suburb outside the city, in an old classroom on the 6th floor.
In class we exchanged cards and arranged to meet later on. We went with several friends for a dinner of roast duck, which led to night market shopping, and further an intimate pot of blue mountain coffee shared between the two of us. After coffee I followed like a puppy to watch a football match in a pub even though I had never been a fan.
The next day I left to Xi’an. It was painful leaving but the Terracotta warriors, Yangzte River, and Wuhan Dam all distracted me for a little while. As I traveled throughout China we kept in contact every day via text message. Through these short but meaningful first messages we subtly developed our relationship.
We met in a classroom, bonded over coffee, and spent only one week together in Qingdao, China before I had to fly home to Canada. Over the distance our relationship grew closer and commitment solidified.
Today we work side-by-side creating weddings and events here in Qingdao. Everyday we share a cup of coffee together, we make jokes and laugh in both languages, and when I am not at home working we are often crazily texting each other about some little wedding detail or color combination.
It feels surreal to think that my small exchange student opportunity has opened up this entire new world. I am fluent in Chinese, married to a wonderful husband, and we are both building our careers and future together everyday.
It’s quite complicated how we came to be in the wedding industry. After we were engaged we of course began to think about how to arrange and coordinate an international wedding party. We also went to check out a few of the local wedding planners (婚庆公司). At first I saw their weddings and just didn’t really understand how there was such a huge T-shaped stage, many different colored lights, and aisle decorations that were nearly touching the ceiling? I thought to myself this isn’t the wedding that I imagined and just doesn’t feel right.
So after some trials and tribulations and meeting the right people, in May 2011 we had our first wedding client (a friend of a friend of course). Our first wedding was an amazing (and frustrating) learning experience about the different between Western and Chinese style weddings. I learned very quickly that creating hand-made seating arrangements for 300+ people just do not work!
One year later I had the chance to design and create our own wedding. I wanted to give my Chinese family and friends the experience of what a western style wedding is like. We were married by the sea, in the yard of a 100 year old building, we ate delicious steak and drank wine, we danced, we ate cake, and we drank some more. It was the best day of my life and Fei agrees it was his too.
Our company is growing, we are learning so much everyday and being challenged in every way possible. I feel honored that I can help other brides and grooms create the same wonderful memories that we had after our wedding day.
我来自加拿大的西海岸， 我未婚夫来自中国的东海岸。 我经常会被问到我们相遇的故事，通常我都会用中文和英文一起来描绘这一段。
他在跟我们讲经济的时候我当时在凝视他的眼睛… … 之后有一次机会，我们和我的朋友，我们一起去吃饭，然后逛街，一直到只剩我们两个人的一壶醉人的蓝山咖啡。那天晚上，我就高兴的跟着他去看足球比赛（世界杯），在那之前我从来不看足球比赛，但是突然间我发觉紧张的被这项运动吸引了。
那天晚上，Fei送我回到我朋友的楼下，第二天我就要去西安旅行了，一去就是十天。刚刚遇到他就要离开让我很舍不得。 当我游览中国的名胜古迹（也是最热的城市）的时候我们每天都不断的互发短信。 当时我还不确定他对我的感觉，直到当我收到一条消息，说，“我想你”。那个时候我就想马上回到青岛！
Alexandra van Vianen lives with her husband Fei in Qingdao, China, where she is the executive designer, florist and stylist for H-Flower.
We’re looking for a few good stories from Chinese men and Western women in love — or out of love — to share on Fridays. Submit your original story or a published blog post today.